The McKinney Fire explodes along the California-Oregon border into the state’s biggest fire of 2022

Infested by typhoons and drought-ravaged trees, the McKinney Fire weekend exploded into California’s biggest fire of 2022 – wiping out homes, fleeing 1,300 people to safety and forcing dozens of hikers off the Pacific Crest Trail near California. forced to be rescued. -Oregon border.

As of Sunday morning the fire burned more than 51,000 acres and remained 0% as it spiraled out of control through the Klamath National Forest – a remote enclave northwest of Mount Shasta that is famous for its fishing, whitewater kayaking and Famous for rafting. And with scores of lightning strikes — some generated from their own billowing smoke plumes — hitting around the central blaze this weekend, firefighters rescued thousands more people ready to flee at a moment’s notice. warned of.

At least 400 structures were threatened by Sunday’s fire, which took less than 48 hours to double the size of any other fire in California so far this year. But as temperatures dropped slightly on Sunday and thunderstorms eased in the early hours of Sunday afternoon, firefighters geared up for another round of potentially dangerous weather on Monday.

The fire made a part of northern California famous for hunting and hiking, while forcing the evacuation of the western part of the old mining town of Yereka. To the west, 63 hikers trekking along the Pacific Crest Trail between Mexico and Canada were rescued by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office after flames closed a section of the popular trail.

Meanwhile, firefighters worked to save homes along Highway 96, while laying dozer lines to protect the small communities of Yereka and Fort Jones east and south of the fire. Some parts of the fire – especially in the east – were so smoky that aircraft and helicopters could not release water or fire retardants.

The fire left another community in Northern California in mourning as word spilled out of homes destroyed in the fire – particularly around the remote community of Klamath River.

Valerie Linfoot, 55, learned from her son – a fire dispatcher – that her 32-year-old home had burned to the ground in the Klamath River. It marked a brutal irony for the Linfoots, a family of firefighters who have worked for decades in Northern California to keep fires at bay. Her husband served as a US Forest Service firefighter for three decades, and their children have also served as firefighters at various points in their lives.

He did everything possible to prepare his home for this day – installing a metal roof, cutting tall grass and “raising” trees to reduce the risk of wildfire in his home.

“It was as safe as we could make it, and it was so dry and so hot and the fire was going so fast,” Linfoot said. “My husband, he was speechless, as he spent 32 years trying to protect that forest.”

Her husband had only 10 minutes to escape—just enough time to attach the family’s camping trailer to their truck and overcome the speed. She said that many of her neighbors are also former firefighters.

Linfoot said, “Nobody is a rich person, so losing their homes for which they worked their lives has a huge impact on all my neighbors.” “And that’s it – it’s a beautiful place. And what I’ve seen is just destroyed. It’s absolutely destroyed.”

The fire started Friday afternoon near Highway 96 and McKinney Creed Road, which is southwest of the Kalamath River. Meteorologists said the flames were unlike anything seen in California this year—a pyrocumulus cloud was blowing up to 50,000 feet in the air. The fire quickly assumed the size of the state’s next largest fire, the Oak Fire, which burned 19,244 acres and destroyed 182 structures west of Yosemite National Park.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The area has been hit by a series of thunderstorms in recent days, which sparked several other blazes nearby in the Klamath National Forest, including the 350-acre China 2 Fire.

On Friday, Siskiyou County recorded 105 lightning-to-ground lightning strikes, followed by another 84 on Saturday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Sargent. Such bolts of lightning can ignite trees or dense undergrowth along the forest floor and smolder in treetops for several days before exploding with little warning.

It all came after the region was caught in a record-setting heat wave, which pushed temperatures into the triple digits, and was cooking up a landscape already plagued by extreme drought. In nearby Montague, temperatures have been 96 degrees or higher since July 11, National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Spilde said. And from Wednesday to Saturday, temperatures reached or exceeded 110 degrees – breaking or tying a record three times.

Meanwhile, it has been dangerously dry. Yereka receives only about half of the 11.16 inches it normally receives by the end of July. Forest Service spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman said parts of the burned area also received .3 inches of rain on Saturday, although that appeared to have not helped stop the fire from spreading.

“It’s a strong indication of how dry these fuels are,” Freeman said. “Across California, we must be prepared for a long and severe fire season this year.”

Even as the flames broke out less than 10 miles from Yereka, some vowed to hold their ground and ignore orders to evacuate.

After helping scores of residents — including a 97-year-old World War II veteran — evacuate Oak Ridge Mobile Estates in Yereka, Mobile Home Park manager Jeff McCauley prepared to stay outside for as long as possible. He expressed apprehension of robbers coming to the park, and said he wanted to try to help extinguish any embers that could land on the homes there.

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Oak Ridge Mobile Estates manager Jeff McCauley. “Someone has to watch the place. I can’t let it sit in the open.”

“I thank our lucky stars that we haven’t found the flames here yet,” McCauley said. “If the wind turns, it may be a completely different story. And then we’ll be up for battle.”

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